Love Found and Lost – Chapter 1

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The Recruit

Malcolm Gilbert looked up as his secretary Gill opened the door.

“Mal are you ready for the last interview?”

Malcolm looked at his desk puzzled. “I cleared the last one on my desk Gill. You mean there’s one more?”

Gill came over to the desk and looked at the empty folder.

“I know I put that one on your table last evening as its marked off on my list. Can I do a search on your desk as it may have slipped under some of your other items put there with the rest of the interview papers.”

Malcolm shrugged and Gill began to rummage through all the items she’d placed there the evening before for attention.

“Ah, here it is! Must have slipped out of the folder and fled to the other items for protection.”

Malcolm laughed as he took the application form and scanned it quickly. “You’re really in high form today Gill. Fled for protection, I like that one.”

Gill laughed as she made an exit. “Her name is Asma, and you’ll have a hard time resisting employing this one.”

They were good friends, and it was too bad his friend Ken had convinced her to marry him before she applied for this job as she was a keeper, and he envied his friend.

Malcolm studied the application form carefully and reviewed the norms of an interview process in his mind. He’d lost count of the number of interviews he’d done since joining the company as their HR Director. Normally it would have taken years to reach this level of administration but being a close relative of one of the movers and shakers in the corporation and having high academic achievement and a great personality he’d lucked out with this appointment. The first thing would be initial impression of the interviewee as they walked in for interview. He pressed the intercom to his secretary Gill and said he was ready for the interview.

Gill opened the door and lingered to see Malcolm’s reaction as she issued Asma in for interview.

Malcolm was stunned. He’d expected to see a woman enter in typical Middle Eastern regalia. It was common now to see more of those women in the workplace and they usually performed well but when Asma entered she presented in western business attire without hesitation and relaxed as she glided to the seat he indicated. Olive skinned, dark hair in western style and with a dazzling smile. He smiled in return and returned his gaze to the materials in front of him. He glanced at the recommendation letters and noted all those recommendations were from western sources. Her academic records were exceptional, and she had experience in the area she was applying for.

He looked up. “Asma tell me why you want to work for this company and what innovations you think you could bring that would be of interest to us. There are twenty-one applicants for the job, and they have excellent backgrounds and recommendations. Why do you feel you could offer more than any of these other applicants?”

Asma continued smiling looking him straight in the eye. “The answer to your question is written in my application but I’ll be very happy to address them again.”

Her response was detailed and professional and in line with what had been written. She sat forward waiting for his response expectantly.

Malcolm’s brain raced. A voice inside said hire this woman, but one must follow procedures. There would be input from that department to review the applications before a final decision would be made. But there was one more question to be asked and as that question could be misunderstood, he had to frame it right. There was a reason to ask.

“Asma, tell me about your family and how they feel about your application for this job. I think you will understand why I’m asking this.”

Asma laughed. “Yes, I understand. My father and three brothers are aware I’m asking for this job, and they don’t approve. But in this country, I think by law I can make up my own mind. Surely you’d support me in that wouldn’t you?”

Malcolm laughed. “Yes of course. We don’t practice discrimination in this company but of course we’d prefer to avoid trouble so need to know all these things before evaluating a person’s prospects of continuing success when they get the job with us. Now do I have your contact details? Yes, I see you have that on file. Good! This is how we will be dealing with the interviews Asma. I’ll meet with the administrator of the department you are applying for tomorrow, and we will go through all the interviews together then make a decision. After that we’ll contact you to say whether you’ll be successful or not.”

Asma continued to smile as she stood to leave. “Will you be recommending me for the job?”

Malcolm laughed. “Asma you’re an interesting woman but it would be improper for me to tell you that. We’d like to have every applicant feel their interview was conducted fairly.”

Asma nodded and laughed. “I’m looking forward to working here sir.”

Malcolm called Gill to come into his office. “Gill that is the most interesting interview I’ve had in a long time. You’d never believe it if I told you what transpired this morning.”

“You don’t have to Mal as if you look on your desk, you’ll see you forgot to turn off the intercom. Fortunately, there was only one of the other secretaries in my office during the interview, but we thought it was hilarious. Particularly when she tried to manipulate a yes out of you at the end. You were so noble.” She broke off into peals of laughter.

For the first time in their time working together Malcolm felt irritation with his secretary so he became business-like, and she noted the change of mood quickly and sobered.

 “Can you schedule a time with the department so we can finalize this appointment.”

Gill departed soberly.

That evening Malcolm exited the building to head to his favorite restaurant before making the trip home to his apartment. As he was a regular, they gave him special rates for meals taken there and there was variety in the menu and they were even willing to make up special meals for him at his request. As he sat at his usual reserved table and began studying the menu, his peripheral vision noted two people by his table. He lifted his eyes to order but they were not waiters.

“We’d like a word with you Mr. Gilbert if you’d grant us that courtesy. May we sit please?”

The elder man spoke. “Let me offer an introduction Mr. Gilbert. I’m Ahmad Abdallah and this is my eldest son, Hassan. We have come in connection with my daughter Asma. You will not understand our culture, but it is important you understand our purpose in meeting with you.”

Malcolm interjected. “How do you know my name I don’t recall meeting you before sir?”

Ahmad smiled pleasantly. “I understand your irritation sir but please do us the courtesy of listening as it is important to our family. Asma needs to respect our culture and we are worried about her lifestyle. As I’m her father it is my responsibility to guide her even though in your culture you consider she can make her own decisions. She has been living away from home during her higher education and working years but she’s at an age where it will be difficult for us to arrange a suitable marriage particularly with her choice to not wear the appropriate attire of our culture. So, Mr. Gilbert we are requesting you to ignore her application for a job in your company. Not only our family but our community would regard that most favorably.”

“Mr. Ahmed of course I respect your right to conduct your life as you choose. But I have a problem as by law your daughter has the right to make her own choices at her age and we’d have to make our decisions on a non-discriminatory basis. It is not my decision alone, but the department administration must feel comfortable they have the most suitable person for the position. So, I don’t know at this stage if your daughter will end up with the job, but I cannot be seen by our company as favoring or discriminating totally because of my choice rather than the facts of the case. However, I’ll share your concerns with the department when I meet them tomorrow.”

The two men stared at him and then rose to depart. “Mr. Gilbert please take our concerns seriously.”

Malcolm sat thinking. He didn’t feel hungry anymore and was resentful for the intrusion. The waiter had discretely stayed away as he observed the meeting but now surfaced by Malcolm’s side.

“Your usual order Mr. Gilbert”

“No Harry, I’ll try the special of the day.”

The order came promptly, and Malcolm finished his food quickly, left the usual tip and departed. This time he returned to the office went through security and entered the office heading for his cubicle where he switched on lights and rummaged through the folder on his table prepared for a final decision next day. He found Asma’s file and looked for her contact information then picked up the phone punching in her mobile number. The phone was picked up and a voice answered with music playing in the background.

“Asma its Malcolm Gilbert here and I have one final issue we need to discuss before I consult with the department tomorrow.” He revealed the discussion he’d had with her father.

“Knowing your application is not favored by your family do you want to withdraw the application? If you do then I need to have that in writing early tomorrow morning. See my secretary Gill.”

“The application will not be withdrawn Mr. Gilbert. My family is coming under pressure from our community and are reacting to that. So far, they’ve left me run my own life after I left home to work in another city and you can rest assured my family will not be making any arrangements for my marriage. I will choose the one I’ll marry.” She laughed and then disconnected the line.

Next day a small committee reviewed applications for the job. At the end of it all Malcolm turned to the department head. “After reviewing the files which candidate stands out above the rest in your opinion Steve?”

“The Lebanese girl stands out and has some interesting ideas which we could examine in our department committees. I think she’d fit in well. What recommendation do you have for us after giving her an in-depth interview?”

Malcolm smiled. “Before I answer that there’s something else you need to know, and I held that back in case you favored someone else. If you’d decided on someone else, then this would not have been a need to share.” He related the experience with Asma’s father the evening before and watched for their reaction. The group looked at each other then the department head addressed Malcolm.

“So, what’s your recommendation?”

“Well, this time I’ll ask you make the call, but I can tell you I was impressed with her professional approach as well as the documentation supplied.”

“Then hire her! We need someone like that and because we’re short staffed, please get all the routine documentation done in a hurry. You did an excellent job. Great applicants from the ones you filtered out for the final interviews, and I think we have an excellent recruit here. Find out when she can start and give me a call so I can orient her to the job.”

Malcolm handed the file to Gill as he entered his office. “Contact her and request she come and see you as soon as possible to fill in all the paperwork. Then she should meet Steve for the orientation to her job.” Gill smiled but after the reaction in his office yesterday decided against her usual ribbing.

To be continued

Copyright Notice

© Copyright 2021 Ian Grice, “ianscyberspace.” All rights reserved

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